BUT THE REALLY BIG NEWS WAS………….
Our first full day in London was spent trying to secure tickets for Wimbledon with no luck. At noon, the tournament sold returned tickets on Ticketmaster. We tried getting returns for hours. Also at 8:30pm, 400 more tickets were released for the back row of Center Court. Many more hours on the website and no tickets. It looked like we would have to go to Wimbledon and wait in “The Queue”. The next day, arriving on the edge of the tournament grounds, we were greeted by overly-friendly Wimbledon stewards who directed us through a gate for non-ticket holders. A walkway led to a grassy field with greeting stewards directing us to the end of the queue where another steward gave us our queue number: 8486. The stewards said we had a good chance of making today’s cutoff of 8500, at which time the entrance gate would close. It was 10:30. Once our section of the queue was situated, the roving stewards suggested for everyone to sit because it would be awhile before we moved. It felt like a big picnic in the park, with occasionally moving forward and sitting back down. At 12:30 we made it through the gate and then the gate closed behind us. We were the last in! We went through an airport-type security and purchased our 20 pound field pass and headed for the schedule board to see where the Isner/Mahut continuation would be. It was the 3rd match on Court 18. We were lucky again because the outside court matches started at 12:00. No one left Court 18 until after first match and then only about 20 people left. We got 2 of the remaining 10 seats and watched the Pennetta/Niculesu match. No one left after that match! There was a one-hour delay before Isner/Mahut and a feeling of something special was about to happen was filling the air. Court 18 was now swamped with fans around it and walkways were jammed up with no movement. Click the scoreboard for a summary of the longest tennis match in history 70-68 in the fifth set, and click on the photo of me in “The Queue” image for photos of this huge, record-breaking match.
Court 18 is next to Henman Hill and next to the resell ticket office. After the Isner match, we walked right up the Court 1 resell window and for 5 pounds got seats to watch the finish of the other big American – Querrey playing Dodig.
After such a thrilling day of tennis, we decided that “The Queue” was not so bad after all. After many hours of trying to get tickets on Ticketmaster, again with no success, we decided to try queuing again. We planned to leave the apartment one hour earlier in hopes of getting into Wimbledon to watch Isner continue his tournament run.
Our second day in “The Queue” was a disaster. We did not make the cutoff. It took 6 hours in “The Queue” before we got in. We experienced Queue fatigue! We missed all the early matches. Once in, we decided to watch Mayer on a small court thinking it was the same entertaining Mayer we saw at the French Open. It was not Leonardo but Flavian Mayer. But what we did see was this guy named Lu, who we never saw before. He was terrific. He later took out Roddick in the tournament. Before leaving, we stopped in at some other matches and roamed the grounds, particularly Henman hill, which is a great jumbo TV viewing experience. Back at the apartment, we decided to use both of our computers to try to get tickets. Within minutes, Ann got lucky with 2 Center Court tickets.
After our first day at Center Court, we decided to again use two computers to attempt ticket purchases. Unbeliveably, Ann snagged 2 tickets for the next day within minutes…for the Men’s Quarterfinals.
One difference in viewing tennis live and on TV is that the speed of the ball looks consistent on TV, but when viewed live, there are many different speeds and spins going on. Sometimes, one player hits the ball so much harder than the other. This was noticeable when we watched the Berdych/Federer match live at Center Court and later watched coverage of the match on TV. Berdych’s forehand and serves were so much faster than Federer’s that it made Federer look a bit slow, which is not the case. Berdych’s forehand is flat and fast. On TV it was hard to see the difference in Berdych’s and Federer’s other than Federer was not getting to a lot of Berdych’s. It was hard to watch Federer get pushed around like he was in the third set. The crowd was definitely cheering for a Federer comeback after his third set 1-6 loss. Federer, at times, did rev it up to true Federer form but it did not last. It was still good to see he could play like the Federer of legend, if only for a couple points. There is so much more other than the speed of the ball that comes through in live tennis that TV just cannot show. Click the handshake image for a match summary.
Our expectations were real low about being able to enter the Wimbledon grounds during our whole 10 month trip, until a steward in The Queue said, “You will get in”. After our first day having watched the Isner/Mahut match, we could not believe our good fortune. It was way more than we had expected. You cannot believe, on top of that, how fortunate we felt getting good Center Court seats for 2 days. The rest of the tournament we spent at a public viewing of Wimbledon at at modern corporate rooftop plaza around the corner from Buckingham Palace. It was a great walk through Hyde Park each day to get to the TV. With our 2010 US Open tennis tickets already in the mail, it looks like we really will make the Grand Slam this year.